Observations of a diapycnal shortcut to adiabatic upwelling of Antarctic Circumpolar Deep Water

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In the Southern Ocean, small-scale turbulence causes diapycnal mixing which influences important water mass transformations, in turn impacting large-scale ocean transports such as the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), a key controller of Earth's climate. We present direct observations of mixing over the Antarctic continental slope between water masses that are part of the Southern Ocean MOC. A 12 h time series of microstructure turbulence measurements, hydrography, and velocity observations off Elephant Island, north of the Antarctic Peninsula, reveals two concurrent bursts of elevated dissipation of O(10−6) W kg−1, resulting in heat fluxes ∼10 times higher than basin-integrated Drake Passage estimates. This occurs across the boundary between adjacent adiabatic upwelling and downwelling overturning cells. Ray tracing to nearby topography shows mixing between 300 and 400 m is consistent with the breaking of locally generated internal tidal waves. Since similar conditions extend to much of the Antarctic continental slope where these water masses outcrop, diapycnal mixing may contribute significantly to upwelling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7950-7956
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2014

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